Two “high-profile militants” of the banned Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LJ) escaped from Karachi’s central prison in one of the most daredevil moves in recent months by the inmates of the jail, officials and sources said on Wednesday.
The prison was claimed to be safeguarded heavily after multiple operations to foil escape attempts including the October 2014 operation by the Rangers to find a 45-metre-long tunnel being built just a few metres from the facility to spring 100 ‘dangerous militants’.
The actual circumstances which led to the escape of the militants are shrouded in mystery as police officials said they were informed about the incident after "considerable delay".
A senior police official ─ who wished not to be named ─ told Dawn that the police received a letter from DIG Prisons, Ashraf Ali Nizamani, on Wednesday evening, stating that the two under-trial prisoners have escaped and that the DIG wanted registration of the case against the escaped UTPs and several jail officials over their alleged negligence.
The DIG Prisons’ letter also did not mention the exact date of the escape of the prisoners.
According to the DIG Prisons’ letter obtained by Dawn, the inmates namely Shaikh Muhammad Mumtaz ─ alias Firoon alias Sher Khan alias Shahzad alias Rahi ─ and Muhammad Ahmed Khan alias Munna had escaped from ‘judicial complex of Central Prison Karachi’.
“Two under-trial prisoners were found missing and reported to have escaped from the Judicial Complex adjacent to Central Prison Karachi,” said the DIG Prisons’ letter dated June 14.
Raja Umer Khattab, a senior official of the police’s Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) told Dawn that they were not informed about the timing of the escape of the UTPs. He said the both LJ militants were arrested by the CTD police in 2013.
Khattab said they were both hardcore LJ militants and that Shaikh Mumtaz alias Firoon, a resident of Orangi Town was involved in targeted killings of 57 persons including members of Shia community and the police. He had 32 cases registered against him.
Similarly, Khattab said Ahmed alias Munna, a resident of Korangi was involved in seven targeted killing cases.
They belonged to Qasim Rasheed group, which was linked with Naeem Bukhari-led LJ outfit.
Khattab claimed that the law enforcers had almost wiped out Naeem Bukhari-led LJ outfit but now their two members had escaped.
He said they considered the escape of the militants from the prison as a "worrying development".
The CTD official said the jail administration had recently taken several steps to secure the jail but despite this, the UTPs managed to escape.
Khattab also said that the CTD team would visit the Central Prison on Thursday to ascertain the circumstances behind the prisoners' escape.
The jail administration has suspended 12 jail staff including Superintendent Central Prison Ghulam Murtaza Shaikh, Deputy Superintendent Faheem Memon and Assistant Superintendent Abdul Rehman Shaikh.
Meanwhile, New Town police said they have received a letter from the DIG Prisons to lodge an FIR against the escaped prisoners and the said jail officials, however, the case has yet to be registered.
Minister for Prisons Ziaul Hasan Lanjar took serious notice of the escape of the two prisoners and suspended 12 jail officials, including superintendent and deputy superintendent of the prison, according to his spokesperson.
The minister has sought a detailed report from IG prisons about the incident and added that he would personally visit the jail to review the security arrangements.
He also ordered IG prisons to have an FIR registered against the suspended jail officials.